In January, we spoke with Michael Steppat, PERA’s Public and Government Affairs Manager. As the Colorado legislative session winds to a close, we checked back in to get his thoughts on a number of different topics.
The legislative session usually ends in early May. However, this year’s legislative session started with a multi-week recess due to COVID-19. So where does that put us now?
The state legislature can meet for no more than 120 days. The delay essentially just extended the deadline for the general assembly to adjourn sine die—the formal term used when the legislative session ends for the year. The number of days they were on recess can just be tacked on to the end of the original end date. That means the legislature must adjourn on or before June 12.
Two bills related to PERA have passed. What can you tell us about them? What effect will they have for PERA members?
PERA retirees who go back to work at a PERA employer in retirement must follow certain rules set by law. House Bill 21-1136 modified the provisions created for judges who work in retirement. These changes were made in order to address the massive caseload backlog caused by the pandemic and only affect retired judges.
Another bill, Senate Bill 21-228, set aside funds in the current fiscal year to be used by the state for future employer contributions or disbursements to PERA. This bill does not change anything about how PERA works. This bill was created primarily to give lawmakers additional flexibility to operate within Colorado’s state budget rules.
What is the status of last year’s direct distribution, which was part of across-the-board cuts the legislature made to the budget? Will this year’s $225 million direct distribution be made to PERA?
PERA did not receive the $225 million direct distribution in 2020, however the full direct distribution to PERA was restored going forward, including this year’s payment.
Do you expect any other PERA-related bills to come up this session?
I don’t expect any more bills that are directly related to PERA.
Many pieces of major federal legislation have been passed in the past few months. Do any of these impact state finances in a way that will affect PERA?
Anything that impacts state finances can potentially have an indirect effect on PERA, as we saw last year with the budget cuts that had to be made. However, there isn’t anything we’ve seen in any of the pandemic-relief-related federal legislation that would affect PERA directly. It’s also important to keep in mind that federal law prohibits state lawmakers from using the funds sent to them in recent COVID-related legislation for pension-related purposes.
As is the case most years, there is a bill to repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision in Social Security. What is the state of that bill?
House Resolution 82, which would repeal the GPO and WEP, was introduced earlier this year. While it has gained cosponsors since it was introduced in January, we haven’t seen it move through legislative process.
A second bill has also been introduced recently. While this second bill would not repeal these Social Security-related measures, it would make some changes to the WEP. See more about House Resolution 2337 here.